Intestate is the "estate plan" for everyone who dies without a will. Intestate is a term which refers to the state statute that each state has which dictates who receives your assets upon your death, if you don't direct otherwise by a will. A common misconception is that the state gets it all. That isn't necessarily true. In fact, that very rarely ever happens.
However, many people may be surprised what does happen in certain situations under application of the intestate statute. For example, assume John Smith is married to Mary Smith for over 30 years and have four kids together, including two that are still minors. It is the second marriage for John and he has one child from his prior marriage. John dies without a will owning assets in his name. Who receives those assets as an inheritance from John's estate?
ANSWER: Mary Smith, as the surviving spouse, only gets some of the assets, even though it was a long marriage and they have several kids together. In fact, Mary would only receive, generally speaking, one-half of the real property and one-half of the personal property. See Iowa Code 633.212. There is a minimum of $50,000 that the surviving spouse gets to keep, so she might get more than half, depending on the assets and their values. But you can imagine the interesting situation where the child from the first marriage is entitled to one-half of the property. John is lucky he is dead as Mary probably isn't really thrilled with his procrastination to see a lawyer about getting his will done.
Doesn't seem fair or right? Maybe it isn't, but every individual can avoid that scenario by executing their own estate plan and avoiding surprise endings.